We are in unprecedented times. Do not get me wrong, we’ve survived many pandemics in our history, but this is the first time in history we have the convergence of radical change in technology with the trigger of a pandemic. Pandemics have historically driven innovation. The Black Plague saw innovations in farming and an increase in the quality of diets after the plague abated, among other innovations. In the early 2000s, the SARS pandemic saw a change in how businesses shopped for merchandise to sell with the rise of Ali Baba. Throughout history innovation accelerated, post-pandemic, to deal with the disruptions’ aftermath.
So, what is the technological convergence driving the radical change in this pandemic? The innovation of greater than 20 megs of bandwidth-a-second to most homes. The ability to effectively work remotely is also changing the landscape of the working world. Add to this the widespread adoption of technology in our lives, even for the poorest of our citizens.
Statistics show that 74 percent of the population owns a computer or laptop. It is down from 78 percent in 2016. 96 percent of the population owns a mobile smartphone, with over half owning a tablet computer. This trend is increasing in the youth. 96 percent of youth, ages 18-29, own a smartphone. What this shows is anyone who wants access to computing capability statistically has access.
With these devices, business owners can reasonably expect their employees to have the capability to conduct business from home. This has been true for quite a while, what has changed is the ability to communicate and collaborate. This required enough bandwidth to send voice and data (images) over the systems we have and the impetus to use them. This capability was certainly there prior to COVID. However, there was no real trigger to drive the widespread adoption of remote work and much resistance.
Our services providers had to scramble at the start of the pandemic to keep the systems up and running. Much of that was a shift from a centralized data requirement (i.e. businesses needed the most bandwidth) to a diverse bandwidth requirement, but they did it without system or service interruptions.
Resistance to remote work has crumbled. It has become the way we are all working. Face-to-face meetings are not likely to resume for quite a while. By the time it does, remote work will be the standard. Certainly, there are industries that will require physical presence to perform work, but companies are building automation systems at a fever pitch.
With the change to remote work, businesses are starting to tackle other changes. For example, learning how to onboard and train new employees is a challenge, just as building a corporate culture to fit the vision of leadership.
We are in unprecedented times. The companies working to innovate processes to fit the times will succeed. We are already seeing this with Amazon, Slack, Zoom, Wayfair, and Nintendo, just to name a few. Determining what products and services work best for sale on the internet, and what still require a brick and mortar location, is just the start. The policies and procedures each business executes will also determine their future. This is just the first in a series of articles looking at how businesses will be impacted by COVID, and we look forward to bringing you the next.
*Daniel Rhoades is a contributing blog writer and his views do not directly represent The Miner Agency.